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Reading the Place and Role of Endogenous Governance Structures in Modernist Physical Planning: The Case of the Bogosi and the Kgotla in Botswana,


Year published: 2021
Categories: Articles

Author / Authors:

  • Chadzimula Molebatsi
  • Seabo B Morobolo


African Studies, 80:2, 134-152, DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2021.1937057


Drawing from the decolonial framework, this article reinterprets the place and role of two endogenous governance structures, namely bogosi and the kgotla, in modernist physical planning in Botswana’s urban villages. Through a historicised account we argue that both structures serve two incongruous roles – firstly, a provision of spaces for mobilisation for the re-inscription of the communal, and secondly, appropriation and co-optation pursuant of a state defined development agenda. The need to differentiate between these two contradictory roles is important in the search for inclusive human settlements in Botswana. The structures are drafted into the state-defined development agenda through appropriation and co-optation, whereas the re-inscription of the communal offers local communities space for pointing out alternatives to the state’s agenda. The article draws from what Nelson Maldonado-Torres (2007, 2) calls ‘a decolonial turn’ in theory and critique. The decolonial turn is critical of Western structures of knowledge and their tendency to suppress non-Western forms of knowledge (Winkler 2018). When applied to the urban space, the decolonial framework points to the existence of other knowledges that shape human settlements in the Global South. It is posited that these knowledges shape the nature of resistance to planning initiatives considered unjust by local communities. Despite unrelenting co-optation and appropriation by modernist governance structures, interventions by bogosi and the kgotla continue to provide viable institutional guidance to planning in urban villages. In unison with the decolonial, this paper calls for the recognition of the critical role played by bogosi and the kgotla in the emergence of alternative urbanisms in Botswana.


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